AT&T’s exclusivity with the Nokia Lumia 920, bad for Nokia?

This article may contain personal views and opinion from the author.
AT&T’s exclusivity with the Nokia Lumia 920, bad for Nokia?
Carrier exclusivity - two words which always bring about a lively debate about the pros and cons of such business relationships.

When AT&T made its announcement officially introducing the Nokia Lumia 920 and 820, those of us who have been following the news related to Windows Phone 8 and Nokia were excited to see some official news, even if we still are not blessed with an official date of availability. What many of us were not so thrilled to see were these words in AT&T’s press release:

The Lumia 900 has been an AT&T exclusive

The Lumia 900 has been an AT&T exclusive

Exclusive? Again? For how long? Forever? These are all understandable reactions for those that are customers on carriers other than AT&T. It is even more understandable when considering that AT&T’s efforts to make a big impact with the Lumia 900 fell short. Earlier this summer, AT&T had reported that sales of the Lumia 900 in the second quarter of this year were unchanged from the first quarter. That equates to about 1.2-million units sold over six months. Okay, technically a success, but those figures do not blow anyone away, and in the premium smartphone segment, they do not warrant a comparison with the competition.

So why did Nokia commit with AT&T again with a device which is certainly generating a lot more excitement? Especially given that it could be argued that Nokia could easily move more of its product across three carriers instead of one (Sprint has not announced its plans with regards to Nokia or Windows Phone 8). It all comes down to risk. The smartphone space has two giant gorillas which literally leave crumbs for the competition to fight over. Clearly AT&T’s position was based on the assumption of risk involved in building an inventory which saw limited success in the previous year. The view from AT&T is understandable to some extent. In order to place such a bet, the exclusivity arguably helps AT&T win new customers who do not care about leaving one carrier for another in pursuit of a phone. It worked when AT&T had a lock on the iPhone, but it could be said that success has not been duplicated.

Let us contrast that with Verizon’s approach to compete against the iPhone when it was an AT&T exclusive. Verizon Wireless’ campaign of “Droid Does” was an unequivocal success and many credit that campaign for being the springboard that Android needed, and indeed received, making it the dominant smartphone platform among consumers.

For their part, Nokia looks like they put together an amazing piece of hardware with the Lumia 920. Regardless of rhetoric, this generation of Lumias is very important to Nokia, who is throwing everything including the kitchen sink to shore up their financial condition. Their success or failure may not directly impact the company’s balance sheet, but if investors and the market are not certain, it could run the Finnish handset maker’s books to the bleeding edge in a stock sell-off.

When it leaked that Verizon was going to be picking up all the big guns for Windows Phone 8, those that were excited about Windows Phone 8 were thrilled to learn that the Lumia 920 was part of that list. Now there is consternation at the announcement by AT&T.

The Droid Does campaign was a major contributor to the success Android has today

The Droid Does campaign was a major contributor to the success Android has today

Does this help Nokia? In our view, no. If AT&T’s exclusivity with the Lumia 900 could barely move a little over a million units in 6 months, Nokia would be able to move double that number by engaging with all the interested carriers, with less perceived risk than what AT&T is doing now. If Nokia were able to get Verizon, AT&T and T-Mobile to commit to only 250,000 units per quarter, they would have exceeded their previous performance with AT&T by 25% immediately. Or, if Nokia had looked to engage with Verizon to launch a campaign akin to “Droid Does,” then there would have been a reasonable expectation of success and in comparison to AT&T, would also position Nokia with the largest US carrier. T-Mobile, while having been a reliable conduit with the Nokia Lumia 710, is simply not big enough to pursue such an undertaking.

For now, it seems that the new Lumias are AT&T’s to bring to market. Those that find the device’s design or camera performance irresistible will net AT&T a few new customers. For the rest that know better than to leave a reliable carrier for a device, we will have to wait and see how long and how exclusive this arrangement will be. We know that Verizon will be picking up the HTC 8X, and that handset is certainly no slouch, but Nokia has certainly made a splash in the tech circles with the Lumia 920, and there will be many that are disappointed that they cannot give their money to Nokia right away.



1. KParks23

Posts: 719; Member since: Oct 13, 2010

Everthing ive read about this reports that it will be a timed exclusive and i hope im right this phone looks great!

10. SuperAndroidEvo

Posts: 4888; Member since: Apr 15, 2011

This is the most horrible move BOTH Nokia & Windows Phone 8 can make. How can restricting or bottle necking a device be GOOD for the device? Nokia needs ALL the help it can get. They actually have a GREAT product in the Nokia Lumia 920 but to limit its exposure is 100% wrong. They need to adopt a mentality like Android & sell to EVERYONE not just AT&T. Now people who would have looked at the Nokia 920 if it were on Verizon or other carriers will now buy something else & not give a WP8 a chance. This is crazy especially when the holidays are literally HERE. How STUPID can they be? If you want to spread or show off your NEW OS Microsoft, an exclusivity deal with your BEST handset is just CRAZY. It's not like WP8 or Nokia are like Apple (before when they were only with AT&T) who people would leave carriers just for that phone. This is just more of the same. People high up in both Nokia's & Microsoft's camp are making stupid mistakes & this will indeed bite BOTH Nokia & Microsoft/WP8 in the a$$. Not a good more at all. They CLEARLY dropped the ball on this one. The only way to compete with BOTH Android & Apple is to release your devices on as many carriers as possible not on just one, even if it's just for some time. There will be millions of sales lost during the exclusivity time with AT&T.

12. greathero1

Posts: 584; Member since: Jun 13, 2008

Couldn't have said it better myself bro! +1000

13. PhansMuneeb

Posts: 371; Member since: Jan 28, 2012

The Device is limited, same as its Operating System

22. arsenaljimenez

Posts: 196; Member since: May 03, 2012

This is the dumbest idea since the Iphone 5's taller screen.

25. DP777

Posts: 15; Member since: Sep 25, 2012

Hi Guys, I am disapoineted on this as well, but I really hope that it will not be exclusive for long otherwise Nokia may loose sales. But for me HTC is not an option because their phones are still crapy only different platform. Lumia 920 is the best phone now and I will buy any way. It should be possible to buy it from amazon or even from AT&T and unlock it. Lumia 920 is the first phone that has such a good camera, design, screen, wireless charging. Nokia's maps and exclusive apps is a great value. I am going to buy these phones for me and my wife with the whole price. No compromises.

26. Jeromeo

Posts: 135; Member since: Jan 11, 2010

Samsung signed an exclusive deal with AT&T for the Galaxy Note. Samsung realized its error. Samsung decided to release the Note II on ALL major carriers. Samsung usurped Nokia.

27. Jeromeo

Posts: 135; Member since: Jan 11, 2010

If you wanna MAKE A COMEBACK, get as many phones out there through whatever channels and means necessary!

15. -box-

Posts: 3991; Member since: Jan 04, 2012

T-Mobile, sprint, verizon, and the smaller carriers make up about 200 million subscribers. That's 200 million chances they're giving up for potential sales for folks who want to stay "in-network", and who would be able to convince their carrier to give them an early upgrade rather than paying an ETF and going to AT&T. Will there likely be churn for folks wanting this phone? Sure, but I would expect not to the levels of Galaxy S2/S3 or iphone, or years ago with the original Droid line and EVO. I want Nokia to succeed. They're the most well-known innovative company in tech, and they deserve universal success. That said, there's always next year's phones. PureView stage 3, hopefully deployed across most of the carriers worldwide... very exciting!

17. Droid_X_Doug

Posts: 5993; Member since: Dec 22, 2010

Passing on a market of 200+ million subscribers for the possibility of gaining some increment of 1 million sales within AT&T, has to be the dumbest move I have seen in business - ever. This will be a business case in Marketing 101 classes next year. BTW Nokia, you may have tapped out a large segment of the potential universe of buyers in AT&T with the L900. Now, those buyers are all on 2 year contracts and you have to convince new buyers within AT&T to buy the L920. Sure, there will be some buyers that are AT&T customers (even some converts that just have to have the L920), but that universe would be infinitely larger if there had been no carrier exclusive deal. Dumb and dumber, IMO.

20. PotDragon

Posts: 214; Member since: Jul 22, 2011

"Timed exclusive" is even worse. Much worse.

2. MeoCao unregistered

Is this why MS promotes HTC 8X to "signature" status? I doubted 920 but now I do think 920 has some truly impressive features and deserves better than being exclusive to 1 carrier. Especially Nokia should know that iPhone is bread and butter for ATT and 920 will have very little chance to shine.


Posts: 2315; Member since: Jul 30, 2011

I would say it's definitely 'bad for Nokia'; I'm sure there are many people out there looking for a Windows Mobile phone that certainly wouldn't entertain the idea of signing with ATerribly&Trashy service provider. I for one would never (NEVER) consider the Blue network; just look at my Samsung Galaxy Note, I've had to wait almost a year (and, I'm still waiting) for the Galaxy Note II on a network that is not AT&Turdish.


Posts: 4851; Member since: Apr 13, 2012

PAPINYC that was funny. i was waiting for your posts +1


Posts: 2315; Member since: Jul 30, 2011

iLoL ...... and a +1 pour vous!

11. -box-

Posts: 3991; Member since: Jan 04, 2012

As an AT&T customer in a major metropolitan are (andT-Mobile, too), I've never had a problem with their network, and have not once that I've noticed been off LTE in and around that same metro area. Are some places worse than others? Sure, but no network is perfect, and AT&T is far from terrible and trashy. I'd rather have (and do) AT&T than Verizon or sprint, no matter what phone it was

16. remtothemax

Posts: 260; Member since: May 02, 2012

What part of the country are you in? I am curious where AT&T's good parts are. Because I have lived in various parts of the West Coast and invariably AT&T is notably inferior to Verizon. That doesn't mean there aren't places where the situation is reveresed, I am just curious where those places might be.

21. papss unregistered


4. eisenbricher

Posts: 973; Member since: Aug 09, 2012

PA please bring a comment from someone working at Nokia... Except Elop. No one on this holy earth is that skilled to bypass questions asked :/

14. denied911

Posts: 361; Member since: May 31, 2012

glad to see other people not falling in to bull crap of mr stefen flop

5. Lboogey6

Posts: 281; Member since: Jan 31, 2012

well there goes windows chances of pulling through theyll have to start all over again new platform and ui in a few years because one they signed up with the #2 carrier who sells more iphones than anyone with horrible customer service and then you limit yourself to that one come out the gate slowly lose traction while they still have the 5 and major android devices still to come windows is cool but you show off an s3 and a note 2 and a ip5 next to them and its a done deal. RIP nokia

6. WinC76 unregistered

Of course it's bad for Nokia, this is the same thing in Australia too, it's exclusive to one carrier only and for a company that's not exactly in their best shape, it would be a bad idea to make it available to only one carrier. I thought they wanted to go global and have as much people buy their phones and make Windows Phone grow faster...

7. darktranquillity

Posts: 285; Member since: Feb 28, 2012

By the price of it, i don think nokia gonna sell more of it anyway.

18. NateAdam8

Posts: 425; Member since: Feb 17, 2012

Why in the f**k would people on AT&A get a Nokia Lumia when phones like the Samsung GS3 or iPhone are available and most people I know on T-Mobile wanted the NL 900 and now the NL 920 or NL 820 this makes them stupid f**ks if the NL 920 is exclusive to AT&T, I'm waiting for HTC WP8 Devices :-)

19. ghost7787

Posts: 9; Member since: Sep 20, 2012

I was very exited about the Nokia Lumia phones and as a T-mobile rep I have used wide a variety of phones but haven't jumped on the Windows phone boat quite yet. This kills my chances to use the 920... I think it looks like an excellent device ever since it was first announced. From the looks of it, the HTC 8x will the primary WP8 choice for t-mobile customers once it actually hits the market since it doesn't even look like the Lumia 820 is headed our way.

23. maxican16

Posts: 364; Member since: Sep 29, 2011

Of course it's bad! Look at how limiting the availability of the One X, HTC's beast phone, has hurt their bottom line. Conversely, look at how much a release across all carriers helps Samsung, and Apple. Exclusive releases hurt everyone involved. Including the consumer.

24. shammont

Posts: 32; Member since: Jun 22, 2012

i am going to give WP8 a chance and really wanted the Lumia 920. Guess I will have to go with the Samsung WP8 now. They must have put a gun to Nokia's head. I know they are not this stupid.

28. phoneari

Posts: 3; Member since: Oct 02, 2012

Emotions so high, it's easy to see the world black and white. Nokia is probably not known so well in North America as it's known in Europe and Asia and it's chances to a decent exposure (through at least one carrier) relies on carrier-exclusivity, I guess. Other carriers probably have got exposure/promo deals with other, more known and used brands. Millions of iphone users have bought into apple's closed, exclusive world, where the price of the handset and the carrier, have been just the beginning of a long costly road and this alone hasn't stopped consumers.

29. Nadr1212

Posts: 741; Member since: Sep 22, 2012

It was such a great idea 4 Nokia to give the Lumia 920 to AT&T only (sarcasticlely)

30. 7thspaceman

Posts: 1597; Member since: Feb 14, 2011

I think Nokia really wants to be known on all USA Cell phone carriers. Verizon will carry it's Lumia 822 which is a variation of the Lumia 820 that AT & T is carrying. My personal opinion is that has a smart coming out later this year that will have the same specs as the 920 but will have a new phone case design that will be carried by other Cell phone carriers than AT & T. Mr El;op Nokia CEO said that other Windows 8 smart phones will come out this year so let us not be a cry baby about the Nokia Lumia Nokia equivalent smart will soon be out for Verizon and others to sell

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